China’s Peng Shuai will be the new world No. 1 in the WTA Tour doubles rankings on Monday, the first Chinese player ever to rise to No. 1 in either the singles or doubles, male or female.
When Peng and her Taiwanese partner, Hsieh Su-wei, won their second-round Qatar Open doubles match 6-2, 6-4 against Ukrainian-Russian combo Irina Buryachok and Vitalia Diatchenko on Thursday, Peng, currently the world No. 3, had earned enough points to climb above the current joint world No. 1’s Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani of Italy.
Peng, though, claimed to have been unaware of the accolade.
“No, I didn’t know,” the Chinese player told the WTA Web site. “After the match my coach came to me and was like: ‘Congratulations’ and ‘You’re No. 1,’ and I was like: ‘Really, are you sure about that?’ And he was like: ‘Yes, I’m sure.’”
“This was a goal for me this year. At the end of last year we were very close to Errani and Vinci, and in Australia we had a big chance, but we didn’t make it. But I’m so happy I made it here in Doha. This is a really happy experience for me,” Peng said.
It has been a phenomenal past 12 months on the doubles court for Peng. Not only did she pick up five WTA doubles titles with current world No. 4 Hsieh last year — in Rome, her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, Cincinnati, Guangzhou and the WTA Championships — but she also won in Pattaya City alongside Zhang Shuai.
Also in the doubles second round on Thursday, Taiwan’s Chan Hao-ching Chan and Liezel Huber of the US were beaten 6-3, 6-3 by Romania’s Monica Niculescu and Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic.
In the singles, top seed Li Na’s Australian Open triumph last month was followed by a stunning tumble when she lost to a qualifier in the third round.
The celebrated Chinese player was beaten 7-6 (7-2), 2-6, 6-4 by Petra Cetkovska, a Czech ranked outside the top 100, in a topsy-turvy contest in Li’s first tournament since her Grand Slam triumph in Melbourne.
She seemed to have turned the match around when she came from behind to lead 3-1 in the final set, but then appeared to run out of steam in a 2 hour, 46 minute contest in which her ratio of errors increasingly soared.
Her consolation was that she will still be world No. 2 for the first time on Monday — the highest singles ranking ever by an Asian player — and that she mostly stuck to an ambitiously aggressive game plan, despite a disruptive wind.
“I don’t think my performance was so bad,” Li said. “Though if I had continued more coming to the net it would have been better. A defeat is not always so bad either. At least I fought and I got information from what happened. I will put that information straight into my training.”
Li paid tribute to Cetkovska, whose performance suggested she is recovering well from injuries which caused her to plunge from the world’s top 30.
Nevertheless, Li had so many chances to take hold of the contest, having game points to lead 3-0, 4-1 and 5-3 in the final set, and yet she was unable to convert any of them.
“I was well down in the third set, so I am very happy to come back,” Cetkovska said. “This is a tennis match, so such things can always happen. It will give me a lot of confidence.”
Li appeared to have benefited from a highly charged incident in the second set when she might have gone a set and a break of serve down.